Gone are the days of Mad Men-style secretaries, where touch-typing and answering the phones were the top priority. The PA role has changed drastically over the last 20 years and it’s showing no sign of stabilising anytime soon. In a world of start-ups, virtual businesses, and international ventures, it is becoming more and more popular
Moving to a new country is an exciting and rewarding endeavour, with the potential for personal and career growth. No more is this more obvious than Dubai, a city that ranks ninth in the world for career progression amongst expats.1
However, as with any move to a new country with a different legal system, it’s worth educating yourself on the professional differences between your home country and the UAE. This is particularly relevant when it comes to salaries and packages. As an emerging economy and business centre, Dubai is still implementing many of the structures that exist in UK workplaces. Therefore, allowances like annual leave, maternity leave and insurance are calculated differently. Benefit schemes are also not as popular as companies are yet to implement additional incentives to attract and retain talent.
That said, this doesn’t mean the concept is completely unknown to businesses across the Middle East. For example, flexible working continues to rise in popularity, with a recent study by International Workplace Group (IWG) finding that 60% of UAE employees work somewhere other than their office at least one day a week. The same study also discovered 52% work away from the office for half the week (or more), while 10% are out of the office for the complete five days.
With 82% of employers recognizing the importance of offering a wide variety of voluntary benefits2, there is potential for this area to only grow.
Most salary packages are broken up into basic salary and benefits, which can include anything from health insurance and accommodation, to transportation allowances and flights home. Generally, a package is much higher than in the UK. For example, among junior administration workers, AED 15,000 a month (approximately GBP 3000) would be considered low, while AED 20,000 (approximately GBP 4000) for a PA would be considered standard. On an annual salary, that would equate to over GBP 46,000 tax free as there is no income tax.
Health insurance is one of the few universal benefits offered by Dubai workplaces, as it is legally enforceable. However, as medical premiums continue to rise, employees are increasingly attracted to extended cover that ensures the ongoing wellbeing of both themselves and their families.2
Gratuity (the UAE pension equivalent) is also enforceable and is calculated according to basic salary and tenure at the company. Employees are paid the equivalent of 21 working days every year for their first five years of service. After five years, the allocation goes up to 30 days.
Annual leave is calculated in a similar way. After six months in a new role, an employee is entitled to two calendar days a month. After 12 months’ service, it is a base rate of 30 calendar days per annum. This varies slightly in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), as employees are allocated 20 calendar days per year after just three months. This doesn’t include any public holidays, as determined by the UAE government.
Based on Tiger’s latest data, about 50% of companies offer expats an annual flight home to their respective countries, making the distance between countries a little smaller. More generally, transportation allowance is a common benefit – a 2017 Salary Survey by job site Bayt.com found that 30% of surveyed employees in the UAE were reimbursed for their travel from home to their place of work. The number was even higher in Saudi Arabia and Qatar (44% and 33% respectively).3
According to the same study, approximately a quarter of employers also offer a housing allowance to order to reduce overall living costs, as well as the opportunity to earn bonuses on top of their basic salary.
Room for growth
Family-friendly benefits are still in short supply across Dubai workplaces, with just 5% of UAE employees receiving a children’s education allowance and 1% having access to a childcare facility.
Over the last 18 months, there have been strides in the way of maternity leave allowance, with public sector employees receiving 60 days at full pay, then reduced working hours for the following four months. Men in the public sector are entitled to paid paternity leave for three days within the first month.
However, in the private sector, new mothers are entitled to 45 days maternity leave. If they have been employed by the same company for one year, it is at full pay, otherwise, it is half pay. They are also entitled to two additional half-hour breaks a day for nursing.
Companies such as Omnicom Media Group and Edleman are leading the charge in this area, voluntarily doubling the allowance to 90 days and offering additional flexible working hours.4 They are joined by global companies such as Facebook, Google, Hill+Knowlton and Jumeirah Group, all of who offer benefits in line with their international offices, including flexible working, career development programmes and social events.
Tiger Recruitment can help you find a role with the right benefits for you and your family. Get in touch today!